If you’re a Heathen, you may have heard about Frau Holle. She is most famous (even today in Germany) for a fairytale about her collected by the Brothers Grimm. Similar to figures like Baba Yaga, many people argue that in pre-Christian times she was a goddess.
Many other-worldly beings in folktales have been hypothesized this way. The most notable example is from Irish lore, where all the deities became kings, queens, and fairies. Early Christian influences diminished the deities until only folk customs kept their names and stories. Unfortunately Germanic polytheism doesn’t have a lot of written lore, and the Brother’s Grimm collected their works in the 1800s. We have less to work with.
Frau Holle is also important for the Pennsylvania Deitsch. In their own lore, she helped lead the people across the ocean to start new settlements in the New World. She protected them and helped keep their traditions alive. Frau Holle is considered the patroness of Urglaawe, and she is a key figure in many of their rituals.
Wonnenacht and Wonnezeit
In Urglaawe, the first of May is called Wonnezeit, and the first evening is called Wonnenacht. Wonne means “joy” or “delight” and Wonnezeit translates to “Time of Joy” while Wonnenacht is “Night of Joy.”
Wonnezeit, much like other celebrations at this time of year, is about celebrating the early summer. Urglaawers and other Heathens make sure their homes are clean and tidy, and then they welcome Frau Holle to visit their homes with open windows and welcoming signs on Wonnenacht. And she gives blessings if she is pleased with your home. For a handy checklist to prepare for Wonnenacht, check out this blog post.
If you saw my last Urglaawe post about Entschtanning, then you know Wonnezeit is the culmination of all your spring cleaning. If there were things to fix, they should be fixed. If there were things to donate or get rid of, they should now be gone. But fear not! You don’t have to be a minimalist. The ‘letter of law’ when it comes to cleaning is simply that pathways through your home are clear. That way, Holle’s Host can pass through.
There is a lot of interesting Deitsch lore for this season. Your Butzemann should be strong enough now to fight off King Frost, and protect your garden. Holle and Berchta reunite and dance. And the sisters take the Dead to their Mill. To read up on the lore, you can go to the Deitsch Mythology Blog here. And to hear more about the Butzemann and King Frost, I recommend this podcast.
What To Do For The Wonnezeit Observance
I have spent a couple of years now welcoming Holle to my home for Wonnenacht. It is a fun tradition that gives me a lot of time to do my spring cleaning and think about my own household goals on a yearly basis. But there are many other things you can do during the Time of Joy.
Firstly, these are many beings you can give offerings to, and perhaps you can do individual rituals during the 12-day observance. Holle, of course, should be honored. The Parade of Spirits can as well. If you read the lore there are several other beings to honor at this time, including Berchta and Gedreier Eckhart. Finally, the land spirits can certainly be honored during this time as well.
In fact, honoring trees and flowers is a large part of Deitsch and Urglaawe practice. If you’d like a list of plants observances during the Time of Joy look no further than this post.
Dance! Dance to your heart’s content this season. If a Pagan group has a celebration with a May Pole, go dance around a May Pole! If not, go out to dance. There are plenty of bars, clubs, and dance halls. If you don’t like dancing, you can always go watch dancing. Go see a musical or ballet. Go to a summer cultural festival. (I grew up going to Greek cultural festivals that featured a lot of fantastic dancing.)
On a broader level, spend time outside and enjoy the season. Go for long walks, or hit the hiking trail. Plan a family barbecue or picnic. Grundsau Burrow celebrated similarly with a homemade macaronic salad. Start a new hobby or outdoor activity.
On a spiritual level, you can start or continue a summer practice. I spent a summer from Beltane to Samhain honoring local land spirits in a weekly ritual. If not a ritual, then volunteer – there are plenty of shelters, trash clean up groups, etc.
By the end of the 12-days, you can ‘plant’ intentions, or anything that you want to grow in your life. Take some time during the holiday to check up on your New Year’s resolutions or personal goals.
There is plenty to do, but I think the hard part is planning when and how to do everything! I hope this list of ideas and information helps you celebrate the joy and life of this season. Because, after all, that’s what early summer has always been about.
All articles accessed April 2021.
- “Frau Holle.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frau_Holle
- D.L. Ashliman (ed.). “Grimm 24: Frau Holle.” University of Pittsburgh. https://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm024.html
- “Frau Holle.” Lewesbaam Sippschaft. https://lewesbaamsippschaft.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/frau-holle/
- John Hyatt. “Frau Holle.” Gifts of the Wyrd. https://giftsofthewyrd.wordpress.com/2018/11/30/frau-holle/
- Robert Schreiwer. “How the Deitsch Nation was Born.” Deitsch Mythology. http://deitschmythology.blogspot.com/2013/07/how-deitsch-nation-was-born.html
- Robert Schreiwer. “Preparing for the Wonnenach.” Huginn’s Heathen Hof. http://www.heathenhof.com/preparing-for-the-wonnenacht/
- Robert Schreiwer. “Wonnenacht and Wonnezeit.” Deitsch Mythology. http://deitschmythology.blogspot.com/2016/05/wonnenacht-and-wonnezeit.html
- Vic Young. “Wonnezeit.” Holle’s Haven. https://holleshaven.com/2020/04/29/wonnezeit/
- Stevie Miller. “Looking Forward to Joy.” Grundsau Burrow. https://grundsauburrow.wordpress.com/2017/05/09/looking-forward-to-joy/